Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
The loss of a loved one is devastating, but ever more so if the death was unexpectedly caused as a result of the negligence of another person or entity. Such a loss may be classified as wrongful death. Wrongful death claims may be made against a person or company, such as the manufacturer of a defective product. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, unintentional injuries were the number one cause of death amongst those ages one to 44.
Every day, accidents happen. While some of these accidents might not be preventable, others are caused by negligent behavior, which can result in fatal injuries. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim. An experienced attorney can help you figure out what your legal rights are and whether or not you can file a lawsuit against the person(s) who are responsible for the death of your loved one.
Causes of Death
The unintentional injuries noted by the CDC often come from certain types of accidents or incidents. For example, car accidents are one of the most common causes of unintentional fatal injuries. According to the CDC, 30,000 people are killed in car accidents each year.
Some other common causes of death include:
- Medical malpractice
- Slip and falls, primarily in the elderly
- Truck crashes
- Dangerous prescription drugs
- Airplane accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Defective products
Who Can File a Claim?
Grieving the loss of a loved one is an ongoing process. Unfortunately, time is of the essence if you are considering filing a wrongful death claim. In Georgia, you have approximately two years from the time of death to file a claim. In this state, the surviving spouse can file a claim. If the decedent had minor children, the spouse must also represent the children’s interests in court.
If the decedent was not married or did not have children, the following people may opt to file a claim:
- The surviving parents
- A personal representative of the deceased person’s estate (i.e. sibling)
If a personal representative decides to file a claim, any compensation recovered is held by the state and will go to the deceased person’s next of kin.
How Wrongful Death is Determined
If you decide to file a claim, it is important to realize that it must be proven that the death was caused after the person or party responsible acted negligently or failed to act at all. For example, a surgeon may have failed to act according to established procedures during an operation, and thus caused the death of a patient.
There are a number of people who might be held liable for a wrongful death. Some examples include: a reckless driver, a team of medical professionals, or defective drug manufacturers. The liable person or entity will depend on the circumstances of the case.
What to Do
An experienced attorney can help the family of the decedent prove their claim. From hiring expert witnesses to tracking down important documents, having an attorney is important when proving that the actions, or inaction, of another caused a death.
Once all the necessary information has been gathered, a claim for damages is made. Initially, the claim is typically for a monetary settlement. Though it is impossible to put a dollar amount on the value of life, it is usually the only way that a responsible party can own up to their mistakes. If nothing else, receiving money may assist surviving family members with future expenses.
If the claim cannot be settled immediately, a formal legal claim, or complaint, may be drafted and served to the defendant, which then begins the lawsuit process. The timeline of a lawsuit will vary from case to case, depending on the individual details. At some point, the defendant may opt to settle the claim before it goes to trial.
Our attorneys at Tate Law Group have significant experience handling wrongful death claims and are here to help guide you through the legal process. We understand that grieving the death of a loved one is one of the hardest times in life, especially when the death was caused by negligent behavior. It is extremely important to us that we do everything we can to make this difficult time even the smallest bit easier for you.
If you have a case you would like to discuss, feel free to contact us at (912) 333-3915 or click here.